When Helping Hurts- Chapter 1

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When Helping Hurts- Notable Quotes: Chapter 1 by Steve Corbett/Brian Fikkert

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4: 18-19

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”  Isaiah 58: 9-10

Why was Israel sent into captivity?  Many of us have a picture in our minds of the Israelites getting out of bed every morning and running off to the nearest shrine to worship idols.  Indeed, numerous passages in the Old Testament indicate that idolatry was a problem in Israel.  But these passages give a broader picture.  Here [Isaiah 58:1-3, 5-10] Israel appears to be characterized by personal piety and the outward expressions of formal religion:  worshiping, offering sacrifices, celebrating religious holidays, fasting, and praying.  Translate this into the modern era, and we might say these folks were faithfully going to church each Sunday, attending midweek prayer meeting, going on the annual church retreat, and singing contemporary praise music.  But God was disgusted with them, going so far as to call them ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’!

Personal piety and formal worship are essential to the Christian life, but they must lead to lives that ‘act justly and love mercy’ (Mic. 6:8)

Referring to Acts 4:34 “there were no needy persons among them”:

Luke is indicating [in Acts 4] that while Israel had failed to care for the poor and was sent into captivity, God’s people have been restored and are now embodying King Jesus and His kingdom, a kingdom in which there is no poverty  (Rev. 21:1-4).  Indeed, throughout the New Testament, care of the poor is a vital concern of the church (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 6:1-7; Gal. 2:1-10; 6:10; James 1:27).  Perhaps no passage states it more succinctly than 1 John 3:16-18:  ‘This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.’

What is the task of the church?  We are to embody Jesus Christ by doing what He did and what He continues to do through us:  declare–using both words and deeds–that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords who is bringing in a kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace.  And the church needs to do this where Jesus did it, among the blind, the lame, the sick and outcast, and the poor.

God has sovereignly chosen to work in the world beginning with the weak who are on the ‘outside’, not the powerful who are on the ‘inside.’

…the early church’s engagement with suffering people was crucial to its explosive growth.

Should the Gospel Inform Where We Live?

“Safe” and “good” neighborhood?  Subdivision with amenities (pools, parks, walking trails)?  Sidewalks?  Proximity to work?  Square footage?  These are a few things a typical American considers when buying a home or deciding where to live.

Should the Gospel inform where an American Christian lives?   I would answer yes.  If the answer is yes, than how?  What would that look like?

If God left us on this earth to be conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28: 16-20).  It makes sense that where we make our home should be an outworking of what God wants to do with our lives and what He calls us to.

What does this look like practically for a Christ follower?  I propose that it looks like putting the typical American housing criteria toward the bottom of our list.  At the top of our list should be a home where God has called us to be Christ’s representatives to our neighbors and where we can do this most effectively. This might mean finding another family or families in your church body that are looking for others to come alongside them in neighborhood evangelism.  This may mean purposely moving into a lower income neighborhood with the purpose of mission.  This might mean renting an apartment rather than buying a house-for the specific purpose of reaching people living in that particular apartment complex with the Gospel.  Even if it means less living space and it makes less financial sense for your family.

Christians should look different from the world.  “Even in the sphere of house buying?”you might ask.  If you find yourself saying ‘no’, I’d like you to ask yourself why you might be saying that.  Could it be that you are more in love with comfort, ease, and the American dream than you are with Jesus and living on mission for Him?  I know it’s not easy to take a hard look at these things.  It’s going to cost something, it’s likely going to hurt in many ways.  I’m here to say though, that it’s worth the cost.  It’s good to question ‘the way we’ve always done things’.  How a Christian decides where he or she lives is one of those things we need to question.  The Gospel should inform where we live.  God is too big and we spend too much time in and around our homes to not take a hard look at this area of life.  God has something to say about every area of our lives-where we live is just one of them.

I’m Working on Myself Right Now

“I can’t do what you’re doing.  I’m just working on myself right now.”  I commend my friend’s humility in admitting she has some areas in her life that she needs to work on.  Not everyone is humble enough to say that.

She was responding to the change she’s seen in our family’s life and lifestyle these last several months.  Moving to a lower income neighborhood, reducing our living space by half, leaving our long time church home, living like a missionary even though we don’t live in a foreign country.  Did she come to the conclusion that I have less ‘issues’ that need worked on based on our current ministry?  I beg to differ!  I have a lot of sin issues that I am still battling.

One of the rather ironic things about ministry is this:  as we pour out ourselves for others-we often benefit as much or even more than the person we are ministering to. I’ve seen it over and over again in Biblical counseling situations and in our first months of church planting.  As I am bringing Scripture and Biblical help to others; I am reminded of those same truths and, with the Spirit’s help, applying these things to my own life as well.  As we serve others, God works on our own hearts.

My friend believes she has things she needs to work on.  I get it.  I have them too.  My question is-are you sure the best way to work on them is to withdraw yourself from ministry?  Maybe your growth in sanctification has slowed because of your withdrawal?  Perhaps pouring yourself into service to another would propel you through the slump?  A chance to see and be encouraged by our faithful God’s work in another person and in yourself may not be the only piece in the puzzle but it could be an overlooked piece.